Earlier this year, the Daily Express dedicated numerous front pages to the threat of ‘1.6 million Gipsies’ who were ‘ready to flood in’ to Britain on 1 May, when the European Union was expanded. Today, an article on page eight of the paper admits that only 10,000 have come.
It was billed as the ‘Great Invasion’ of 2004. Maps of Europe were printed depicting invading armies of ‘Gipsies’ from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. The newspaper estimated that the total number of Roma living in these four countries was 1.6 million. So it put that figure on its front page with the warning ‘1.6 million Gipsies ready to flood in’. An editorial comment added that they were ‘heading to Britain to leech on us’.
Yet the hordes never arrived. On the day in question, journalists were despatched to Victoria Coach Station and Dover docks to report on the first battalions of this eastern invasion. But the flood turned out to be no more than a trickle.
It soon became clear that the majority of people registering as migrants from the eight new EU member states in eastern Europe had already been in the UK prior to 1 May and the EU expansion itself was having a negligible impact on rates of migration. The main effect of EU expansion was to offer regularisation to unauthorised workers already here.
This was confirmed by new figures published yesterday. These revealed that in the first two months of an expanded EU, no more than 10,000 people migrated to the UK from the new EU member states in eastern Europe. A further 14,000 people who were already in the UK registered for legal working.
Today, an article on page eight of the Daily Express tried to cover up the fact that the ‘Great Invasion’ had not materialised, by focusing on the 14,000 people who were previously working illegally. But James Slack, the Express‘s Home Affairs Correspondent, is forced to admit in the same article that there have only been ‘10,000 migrants from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia’. The article goes on to state that these figures put ‘Britain on course to receive 60,000 economic immigrants per year’, a tiny amount compared to the 1.6 million predicted by the paper in January. And, since the rate of migration has already started to fall, the actual number over the year is likely to be even smaller.
Unfortunately, the recent hostility directed at Europe’s Roma communities cannot now be undone and Express readers will be left with an enduring image of ‘Gypsy’ scroungers as poised to flood Britain from the East.